Singapore has an illegal immigration problem

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Michael R. M. Abrigo

Michael M. Abrigo is a research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). The views expressed in this dossier are not necessarily those of the PIDS.

Chinese nationals before their deportation at the Manila Immigration Service. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

Filipino emigrants who work with a work permit in their destination countries but have not registered as overseas workers are considered undocumented emigrants in the Philippines. Official estimates show that between 2000 and 2011, the number of Filipino emigrants with irregular status decreased by 42 percent. In 2000, their number was 1.8 million, in the meantime it fell to 0.6 million and 0.7 million in 2005 and 2010, but in 2011 it shot up again to 1.1 million. The current increase in the number of undocumented workers is believed to be the result of the increasing number of workers who have lost their jobs in the wake of the recent global economic crisis but have nevertheless chosen to remain in the target countries. It is estimated that in 2011 irregular migrants from the Philippines were found primarily in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as in the USA.

Illegal recruitment and human trafficking are important phenomena related to irregular migration that the Philippine government is fighting against. [1] In 2008, an inter-agency committee against illegal recruitment was established in the Office of the President. He was reinstated in 2011 to coordinate government initiatives against illegal recruitment. Since 2000, the number of new cases against illegal recruitment has been falling, although the number of cases that have not yet been concluded has increased, which has contributed to an ambiguous assessment of the effectiveness of government initiatives against illegal recruitment. [2] An inter-agency advisory body has also been set up to combat people smuggling. It should be noted that while many irregular migrants from the Philippines are victims of illegal recruitment or human trafficking, not every person can be classified by such categories.

The southern Philippine island of Mindanao appears to be a major source of irregular migrants, particularly in Malaysia and the Middle East. Poor implementation of overseas employment regulations in the Muslim Mindanao Autonomous Region, along with strong historical and geopolitical ties with the migrants' destination countries, as well as internal conflicts and poverty have contributed to this situation. The immigration policies of the destination countries also affect the flow of irregular migrants.

Irregular immigration to the Philippines is not that well documented. The Immigration Service estimates that around 250,000 foreigners were staying illegally in the Philippines in 1995. [3] Regularization programs were carried out between October 1995 and March 1997 under the Alien Social Integration Act, RA 7919. It was estimated that 16,000 people, mostly Chinese nationals, were granted legal residence status. [4] Similar amnesty programs have been proposed in Congress since 2007.